July 16, 2007 | Graham

Free Haneef now

I like to think that I believe in civil liberties, but I’ve been barely troubled by the long time that Mohammed Haneef has spent in jail for interrogation. It seems to me that terrorism is not like any other crime. Allowing a suspect to roam around while you work to find evidence on which to charge them might represent an unacceptable risk to national security; and you may also need them incommunicado as part of a wider operation. The requirement for police to make a fresh application before a magistrate every 48 hours, and their ability to interrogate for a maximum of 24 hours seem to me to provide appropriate checks and balances.
I’m also not inclined to sneer at the charge that he recklessly provided a sim card to a terrrorist organisation. We’ll see how serious the charge is when he appears in court, but for the moment I’ll give the prosecution the benefit of the doubt. An indication of the seriousness of the charge can be gauged from the fact that he was granted bail on surety of $10,000.
But what I’m not prepared to accept is the federal government’s revocation of his visa, for no better reason from what I can make out, than to circumvent the successful bail application and lock him away again. The federal government has his passport. He is not leaving the country, so he can’t avoid facing the charges. A magistrate, after hearing evidence from both sides, has decided that he is not so dangerous that he has to remain in prison. So where is the point in putting him in a federal jail? After the trial is over we will all be in the best position to judge whether his visa should be revoked, whether or not he is convicted.
The only viable explanation that I can see is political, and it is one that ought to backfire on the government. If it doesn’t it will be because the Labor Party has laid down and agreed with their actions. The only opposition at the moment appears to be coming from Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett, and the Greens Kerry Nettle.
My sense is that while beating up on refugees and foreigners was a politically smart thing for the government to do in 2001 or even 2004, the tide has changed. The issue certainly doesn’t come up in our research, and the popularity of articles on On Line Opinion in this area has been waning. The reason that the government is so far behind in the polls is that the buttons that it used to punch so effectively are no longer connected to the national nervous system.
The only thing that must give it some faint hope of an election win is that the Rudd ALP’s “mini me” strategy is so risk averse that it won’t try to differentiate itself by even a millimetre from the government on this issue.

Posted by Graham at 11:09 pm | Comments (8) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. who cares if rudward wins. the problem here is that the government has learned there are no legal limits on it’s actions, and possible political benefits in behaving like the gestapo.
    people are popping out of sight into ‘downtime’ now (so cute, so harmless), and since it’s being done in english rather than german or russian the chatterati think it may be necessary for national security.
    ozzies are sheep, ozzie chatterati are bellwethers, and ozzie politicians are dingos.
    “you get the government you deserve” is the unified field theory of political science, and only luck can save australia from fascism, for ozzies haven’t got the character to save themselves.

    Comment by al loomis — July 17, 2007 @ 7:50 am

  2. I’d like to think we *do* have the character to save ourselves and reestablish civil liberties. The noble concept of the “fair go” always used to go hand in hand with “mateship”, but seems to have been prised off in recent years with the chisel of blinkered self-interest.
    Australia can do, and has done, much better than the Liberal and Labor parties of today. True small-l liberals and anyone who still believes in the fair go: this is a country at war; it needs you.

    Comment by xoddam aka Jonathan Maddox — July 17, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  3. Around 3000 overseas-trained doctors come to Australia each years, many on 457 visas. About 15% of them are of Indian nationality, others from Pakistan and the Middle East. They plug a critical hole in the nation’s health care system.
    Leaving aside the government’s appalling disregard for civil liberties, this affair runs the risk of making Australia a highly unappealing destination for any Middle East, Indian sub-continent or Indonesian professional looking to gain foreign experience.

    Comment by MikeM — July 17, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  4. The government we have – primarily fascist, is part of a process started under Hawke and perhaps even earlier. That worthy PM started the process with his fancy use of Parliament as a meeting place for his chronies in business. Keating, I believe, introduced the draconian measures against refugees. Howard, Ruddock, Brough, and Andrews are only following suit. Rudd quietly condones the events, knowing, of course that he may require such power and authority to keep the “mob” under control.
    We desperately need a revamp of our political scene. Liberalism (Oxford dictionary circa 1930) is sorely needed. But this is ever fading with the ridiculous electoral laws.
    There are so few elected members who are prepared to do the job they were elected for: represent the people. We should all vote putting the sitting members last on the ballot paper.

    Comment by David Brooks — July 17, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  5. It’s a bit early to tell yet, but if Andrews’ decision was as politically motivated as it seems to be, it appears to have been a big mistake.
    It doesn’t seem to be working as a whistle issue, which isn’t surprising since whistle issues haven’t worked for a while now with anybody but the rabid. Surely there’s somebody in Howard’s ear who’s realised that by now?
    Rudd wouldn’t need to be a genuis to have worked out the wedge tactic, so it’s no surprise that he’s not taking the bait. That seems to be disappointing Labor supporters, but they’re not going to vote Liberal because of it.
    From a political perspective, the lack of informed strategy from the government is truly awful. I wouldn’t vote for them under any circumstances, but this kind of political incompetence is still painful to watch.
    As many have said before, we need good opposition to get good government. If this is the kind of thing we can expect from the coalition if they end up in opposition, we need to start hoping Rudd is that very rare beast among politicians – a man of his word.

    Comment by Lyn — July 17, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  6. For those who really like to consider issues which are not at all raised by the media and neither debated may like to check out my blog http://au.360.yahoo.com/profile-ijpxwMQ4dbXm0BMADq1lv8AYHknTV_QH which also contains correspondence to Dr. Haneef’s lawyers. Various articles posted in the blog relates to the constitutional issues regarding what is being done to Dr. Haneef and that it is and remains unconstitutional.
    I do not argue the issue as to the innocence or guilt of Dr. Haneef, rather that if we have a RULE OF LAW and DUE PROCESS OF LAW then we must provide it to Dr. Haneef as to any other accused.
    Without it, we end up to approve this KGB/STROMTROOPERS/SS mentality now being used by the Federal Government.

    Comment by Mr. G. H. Schorel-Hlavka — July 17, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

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